Sunday, April 8, 2012

Meals and food

My students usually get confused with the words meal and food because they both translate as “comida” in Spanish. To help them understand the difference, I tell them that food is what you eat and the meals are breakfast, lunch, dinner... that is, the portions of food taken at a particular time. Thus, breakfast is eaten in the morning, and as its name suggests, it is the meal that breaks the “fast” or period in which you abstain from food (the night); lunch is eaten at midday and it is usually a light snack; and dinner is the main meal of the day and is eaten between six and eight at night. Some people use the word supper for the main meal of the day, but for others, supper is a light meal eaten shortly before going to bed.
Full English Breakfast
Apart from these meals, you can also have a snack in between meals, and on Sunday an American custom that is catching in Britain is the brunch, which is a late breakfast or early lunch that is usually eaten in the late morning, making it perfect for those people that after a long night out want to stay in bed a little longer on a Sunday morning. The word brunch is a portmanteau of “breakfast” and “lunch”.
Meals can consist of one, two or three courses (or sometimes more!). These are the parts of the meal that are served in different dishes and one after the other. A good meal can have an appetizer, a first course (soup or salad), a second course (meat or fish with vegetables and potatoes) and the third course, the dessert (sometimes called “pudding”), which is usually something sweet such as ice-cream, cake, trifle... Please, do not confuse dessert /dɪˈzɜːt/ with desert /ˈdɛzət/. Have a look at the pictures.

As we have seen in a previous post, you can “have” or “take” a meal, being the verb have more widely used in Britain, while the use of take in this context is more American.
There are quite a few adjectives that you can use with food. If you don’t like it you can say it is disgusting, yucky (slang) or unsavoury, but if you like it you can say that it is tasty or savoury, or, if you like it a lot, delicious, scrumptious, yummy (slang), or finger-licking good.

Let’s have a look now at this presentation about food and meals.

If you want to know a bit more about the traditional British dishes, go to this page.

Now you can do this exercise to see how many of the words we have seen today you can remember.

Well, all this writing about food has whetted my appetite. I’m going to the kitchen to see what I can tuck in. Fancy some scones? Enjoy your meal, or as the French say “Bon appétit!”.


  1. Thanks for sharing, I will bookmark and be back again

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  2. Thank you so much! it is so helpful!

  3. he cooks the food or he cooks the meal .. which one is correct ?

    1. Hi! Both are correct, but there is a difference in meaning.
      Thank you for visiting!


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